|Tyler Zeller doing ‘whatever I need to do’ to help Celtics with Al Horford out||11.03.16 at 12:32 pm ET|
Suffice to say that over the past two-plus seasons, Tyler Zeller has had to be the most flexible member of the Celtics in terms of his minutes.
When he came to the Celtics in 2014, he appeared in every game, starting 59, and averaged 21.1 minutes. The following year he played in 60 games, starting three (which happened to be the first three games of the season), while averaging just 11.8 minutes per game.
But just four games into this season, he was not only called upon to start, but called upon to replace the Celtics’ biggest free agent signing in recent memory in Al Horford.
“It’s good. I started a lot two years ago, last year was a little weird, but just being able to come in, try and do as much as I can to help this team win,” Zeller said. “Play hard, rebound, defend, whatever I need to do, but really just try to fit in with these guys.”
Zeller played 24:45 minutes in the Celtics’ 107-100 win against the Bulls on Wednesday, going 5-for-11 from the field for 11 points. He grabbed four rebounds and managed a steal in the process as well.
The 26-year-old occasionally looked lost in the early going, especially against a Bulls team that dominated the Celtics on the glass 55-36 in their first meeting last Thursday. But he settled in, most notably throwing down a dunk over Robin Lopez — who had been dominating him on the glass for the most part — in transition.
Air Zeller, you are cleared for takeoff! pic.twitter.com/wE4rvl4E0J
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 3, 2016
The Celtics ultimately lost the rebounding battle 49-39, but it was a step in the right direction after getting dismantled a week prior.
|Fast Break: Amir Johnson, Isaiah Thomas each put up 23 points as Celtics survive against Bulls||11.02.16 at 10:38 pm ET|
While one Chicago team was in pursuit of ending a 108-year championship drought, another was giving the Celtics a heart attack in the C’s 107-100 win over the Bulls.
Leading by 16 points in the fourth quarter, the Celtics squandered yet another lead at home, letting the Bulls tie the game with less than two minutes left in the fourth. Despite the late surge, the Celtics fended off the Bulls, scoring five unanswered points after the Bulls evened the game.
“We’ve got to play better in that situation,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “I thought our offense was good and executed well, but we’ve got to be more sound defensively in that time.”
Amir Johnson had arguably his most memorable game in green, dropping 23 points on the Bulls, including four 3-pointers on as many attempts. He had three assists and five rebounds as well.
“I was just feeling good,” Johnson said. “I’m always able to shoot, guys can shoot in the league, it’s just in our offense I’ve always played team ball and been a very unselfish player, [tonight] I was just able to find open shots and knock down shots.”
Isaiah Thomas turned in a double-double performance, scoring 23 points while dishing out 10 assists.
In his season debut, guard Marcus Smart was quiet offensively, turning the ball over six times in his 33 minutes of work, but was solid on the defensive end. He managed to grab five boards with one steal.
With legitimate concern surrounding the Celtics frontcourt with the absence of Al Horford, the C’s were more than adept on the glass against a Bulls team that dominated them in rebounding during their last meeting less than a week ago. While the C’s were outrebounded 49-39 Wednesday, it was an improvement compared to them getting worked over 55-36 on the glass on Thursday.
“[Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson] did a really good job. Both those guys are good players,” Stevens said. “We talked about Tyler’s reliability off the bench, and you know one thing about Al: When he plays with Al, a lot of times he’s the roller and Al’s the guy that plays on the perimeter. And tonight Tyler was is the roller and [Johnson] is on the perimeter more.”
|Celtics Pregame Notes: Al Horford out next two games with concussion; Tyler Zeller starts Wednesday||at 6:46 pm ET|
For the first time this season, the Celtics starting lineup will not include Al Horford — and it will be that way for a at least two games.
The Celtics center will miss Wednesday’s game against the Bulls as part of the NBA concussion protocol, being replaced by Tyler Zeller. Horford suffered the injury on Monday in practice when a teammate swiped for a ball and got Horford in the head. After feeling fine Monday night and into Tuesday morning, Horford was too nauseous to complete Tuesday’s practice.
He won’t travel with the team either for Thursday’s game against the Cavs.
According to head coach Brad Stevens, “He felt better today but still had some symptoms, and you have to be 24 hours symptom-free before resuming activity, and if any symptoms come up after that 24 hours once you resume activity it restarts itself. So we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but he will not be on the trip, he will not play [Wednesday or Thursday].”
With Horford’s absence clearing the way for Zeller to get a start, it is another testament to the 7-footers flexibility in minutes.
After spending most of last season deep in the bench, he’s averaged 16.3 minutes so far this season, including 20 minutes, 18 seconds when the Celtics played the Bulls last Thursday.
“Tyler has been there, done that here and we talked about Tyler’s value extending beyond just a typical role when fully healthy is that he’s been a guy that’s started games for us, started big games for us and has played really well and is able to both. He’s able to come off the bench or start,” Stevens said.
“With his size, with their rebounding, we’re going to need guys to get them off the glass. It doesn’t mean that he’ll get every rebound, we’ll need our guards to rebound as our bigs are blocking out a lot.”
Other Celtics Notes: — Marcus Smart will make his season debut after missing the first three games with a left ankle sprain. Avery Bradley will be available as well, after receiving a cortisone shot Tuesday. Stevens indicated both will be free of any minutes restrictions.
|Celtics’ 10-man rotation set to create some odd men out||10.15.16 at 12:15 pm ET|
Prior to Thursday night’s game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens made an announcement that wasn’t so much surprising, rather thought-provoking.
“Ten (players) is what we usually play at the start of the season,” Stevens said. “It could be eight to ten, nine to ten.”
“Anytime you can get to a solid eight or nine in a rotation, that’s beneficial.”
That is conceivably going to leave a valuable asset out of the rotation. With his starting lineup of Al Horford, Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas all but in ink, there would be two to four players vying for minutes.
Marcus Smart will also be a lock as the first man off the bench — as Stevens has often referred to him as a “sixth starter.” Once healthy, Kelly Olynyk will likely be in the same situation.
There is some fluidity after that, however.
Stevens did note that his rotation can, and likely will, change on a game-to-game basis.
“We have to have everybody ready to go,” said Stevens who added, “and some days it’ll be a solid eight plus 2 (players) but that plus 2 may change game to game depending on who we’re playing, how they played against them, how they played in practice, how they played the game before.”
With the summer league and preseason that Terry Rozier has had, reasonable minds can believe he would be in the rotation. However, ball handling and distribution are two things you could essentially get out of Smart, plus he would provide better defense. In an event where the Celtics are going to need to attempt to matchup in height with opposing teams, Rozier could see himself squeezed out of the rotation.
Then there’s Jaylen Brown. The rookie is a fascinating case because if he’s not going to be in the rotation, then he would be better suited playing in the D-League, which is not exactly the best PR move for a team’s No. 3 pick in the draft. That aside, however, he’s proven that his game has translated well to the NBA and the Celtics could definitely use his athleticism.
Jonas Jerebko is a perplexing case as well. Seemingly every time he appears to be falling out of Stevens’ good graces, he pops a 12-point performance off the bench, as he did Thursday (and lest we forget the 2016 postseason, as well). His problem, however, is that he’ll be more or less absent for stretches, and when his shot from 15-to 18-feet is off, he can render himself useless on the offensive end.
Bottom line, Stevens knows what he’s getting with Jerebko. He doesn’t have to worry about developing him, he’s a slightly above-average defender, who has a shot that can be lethal when it’s on. It’s hard to imagine him being phased out of the rotation — especially early on in the season — but it’s a legitimate possibility if he hits a cold streak.
Another veteran in a precarious position is Gerald Green. Green didn’t even see the floor until about five and a half minutes remained in the third quarter Thursday. There are too many enticing options at Stevens’ disposal to allow Green to get meaningful minutes. Conversely, he posesses one of the biggest tools the Celtics as a whole lack: a shot. However, he’s yet to exhibit any reliability as a shooter in his two preseason appearances, going a combined 0-for-4 from deep. He’s otherwise 9-from-20 from the field. He is the type of player destined to be the first man out, especially when his shot is cold.
Tyler Zeller hasn’t exactly had a camp to remember thus far. And with his history of fluctuating minutes, it already looks as if he’s destined for the same scenario as 2015-16, where he could be playing three minutes one night, but 18 the other.
One player that is making more of a case for himself is Jordan Mickey. A big leader in the late surge that pushed the Celtics bench past the Nets on Thursday, Mickey has started to look much more acclimated to the NBA than last year, even after tearing up the D-League. He may be an afterthought to start the season, but the amount of meaningful minutes he may get could certainly increase.
It should all come down to matchups. Stevens isn’t afraid to play small, and there is enough diversity in skill amongst bench players to where he has a quality arsenal to work with. As camp continues and more players begin to establish — or hurt — their value, the rotation should begin to take more of a shape, with some understandable flexibility taking place as well.
|Celtics Player Preview: Tyler Zeller||09.24.16 at 10:07 am ET|
With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.
60 games with Celtics: 11.8 minutes, 6.1 points, 47.6% FG, 3.0 rebounds
Zeller saw his minutes cut in half last season but made the best of his situation by stepping up in moments when the Celtics needed him. After losing his starting job to Amir Johnson, Zeller saw his role further diminished as Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger shared minutes at the center spot. But Zeller did have a few memorable performances. In a 124-109 win over the Bucks in early April — a game with playoff implications — Zeller had his best game of the season, finishing with 26 points on 9-of-15 shots and four blocks. It proved to Stevens that he always has a backup plan in Zeller — a player who can score in double figures on any given night.
Projected role in 2016-17
Behind Al Horford, Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk, there aren’t a whole lot of minutes for Zeller this season. However, when opportunities are present Zeller will provide instant offense. There’s a reason the Celtics signed him to a two-year, $16 million deal this past summer. He may be an insurance policy for Johnson and Olynyk (who is expected to miss the start of the regular season after having surgery on his right shoulder) but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of taking on big minutes. There just aren’t enough minutes for Zeller. His offense is inferior to Olynyk’s and Johnson is a much better defender — thus making Zeller the Celtics’ third-string center this season.
|Brad Stevens ‘putting the pieces together’ for upcoming season||09.08.16 at 12:39 pm ET|
Despite the seemingly constant drama surrounding the Celtics this offseason, head coach Brad Stevens has been surprisingly quiet. At the ABCD Hoops for Hope event at the TD Garden on Tuesday, Stevens opened up about a number of things that defined this offseason.
And though he’s been quiet, it hasn’t stopped him from planning constantly and paying mind to the outlook of the upcoming season.
“I think as a coach, you get away a little bit, but at some point you’re antsy to get back at it,” Stevens told reporters. “So maybe re-writing the third version of what you’re doing? I don’t know. You think about it all year. I’m just going to be ready for September 27th. Ever since the end of July I’ve had a pretty good idea of what we’re going to look like as a team and who’s going to help us in what way. It’s just a matter now of putting the pieces together and hopefully playing well”
The Celtics that fell in the first round of the 2016 postseason, though similar, will have some major changes. There was the addition of big man Al Horford, former Celtic Gerald Green, as well as No. 3 draft pick Jaylen Brown.
With such additions, there’s been incessant changes to the outlook of the roster and thus the approach the team will have to take.
“I think you’re always tweaking and changing and you’re always making adjustments,” he said, “But I think you have to put a lot of time and thought into what your new guys have done well, how that plays within what you’ve done or if you need to change some of what you’ve done to fit them better. You go through that, and you make sure you come up with a plan that fits everybody the best to bring out all of their best strengths.”
Defense was never an issue for the Celtics in 2015-16.
|Celtics make Jaylen Brown, 4 other signings official||07.28.16 at 3:26 pm ET|
Wednesday evening the Celtics made five deals official — most notably the signing of No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown. Nearly all of the signings were previously reported, however were not made official by the team until Wednesday.
Though the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Brown is expected to be a big part of the Celtics immediate future, Brown was immediately a scoring threat during the summer league, averaging 16 points per game over 29 minutes. He also added 6.2 rebounds per game as well as 2.3 assists.
In his Pac-12 Freshman of the Year-winning 2015-16 campaign, the 6-foot-7 19-year-old averaged 14.6 points and 5.4 boards over 27.6 minutes per game.
Also signed from the draft were second-round picks Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil — deals that had been agreed upon earlier on Wednesday.
The two remaining deals included the re-upping of big man Tyler Zeller, as well as the return of Gerald Green, both of whom have agreed to deals, as WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia reported on Saturday.
The signings now set the Celtics roster at 18, leaving an interesting training camp ahead that will see three players not make the NBA roster.
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